The Los Angeles Lakers really wanted to buy into the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft on Thursday night, and eventually did, trading a 2020 second-round pick and cash considerations to the Orlando Magic in exchange for the choice that became Talen Horton-Tucker.
After he was selected, Horton-Tucker got on a conference call with some of the local media to discuss joining the team, and he made it clear that L.A. was somewhere he wants to be:
Talen Horton-Tucker on the Lakers: “It’s a dream destination for me."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) June 21, 2019
Part of that is (presumably) the chance to team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who are not only two of the best players in the league, but also fellow Klutch Sports clients who Horton-Tucker is already familiar with:
Talen Horton-Tucker says he did not work out for Lakers and did not meet with them at Combine. He has, however, met a couple other players represented by Klutch Sports: LeBron James and Anthony Davis.— Bill Oram (@billoram) June 21, 2019
As for Tucker’s game and what he’ll bring to the floor, it sounds like the 18-year-old Iowa State Product already knows that he has a lot to work on if he wants to stick in the NBA as a second-round pick:
On a conference call right now, THT, on where he wants to go from here w/his game: "I feel like becoming better every day at everything. Just actually working on my all-around game. Shooting. My body has actually changed." https://t.co/i34h0X5cMG— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) June 21, 2019
Him mentioning shooting specifically seems to be good recognition of a specific weakness, as Horton-Tucker shot just 40.6 percent overall during his freshman season in college, and 30.8 percent from behind the arc. But while it will make him far more dangerous offensively if he can get better in those two areas, Horton-Tucker already does look like a player who can contribute outside of shooting, or at least has the potential to boast a well-rounded skillset at some point:
Defensively.....— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) June 21, 2019
- 90th percentile on defending jumpers off the dribble
- 94th percentile when defending the ball handler in pick and rolls
- 100th (!) percentile on defending off-screen actions. On just 13 possessions, he allowed TWO points, 0.154 PPP.
Ultimately, the Lakers getting a promising 18-year-old to replenish their young depth is a pretty good thing, especially when it looks like they’re going to sacrifice every young player on the roster not named Kyle Kuzma in their trade for Davis.
And look: Counting on a player that will only turn 19 in November to contribute consistently on a contender would be foolhardy. There are reasons Horton-Tucker fell in the draft. But having a teenager that’s just excited to learn from all the veterans that the Lakers are going to bring in and can potentially start to hit their stride right around when the team needs reinforcements is a good usage of some cash and a future pick, and it will certainly make summer league more exciting next month just to see what Horton-Tucker can do.
Ultimately, this might not be as much of a “dream” pick for the Lakers as it is for Horton-Tucker, but if he can maximize his unique and tantalizing potential for a prospect in this range, the front office may eventually also have to pinch themselves to make sure they aren’t asleep.